Monday, January 25, 2010

Unemployment Diary - Domesticated

When I lost my job in December, I had a few sleepless nights where I worried and worried hard about the money. Now we've almost reached that point where you think "Well, hell, what else can go wrong?" Of course, the glass half empty side of my brain warns against that kind of thinking. Ask and ye shall receive the answer. And there's always an answer.

But the work? I don't miss it. I'm finding what I do now to be so much more rewarding. I realize now that even though I'd been in my line of work for nearly twenty years, I've never really felt it defined me. Except for the martyr aspect. I was most adept at working my butt off only to give away the credit to some volunteer. In that way, motherhood is similar, I'm afraid. At least the way I practice it.

Nevertheless, it took me no time to adjust to not having a long commute or going to an office and pretending to be a grown up, all serious and stuff. And panty hose? Yeah. No.

Sure I miss the drives with MathMan, but we've instituted Sunday Morning Bed Ins where we hang out, watch DVDS, have breakfast and lunch in bed, read and just laze about, enjoying each other's company immensely. Sometime around 11am, we even unlock the bedroom door so the kids can join us as we do nothing much at all. At first, they were all "Aren't you guys ever going to get out of bed?" And now they're getting use to it. "Just don't think about the wild monkey sex your parents have on the bed and you'll be fine," we tell them. Works like a charm.

(Note: Not leaving the house and not being online is a great way to NOT spend money.)

Even now, as I wait for the unemployment insurance to kick in, I'm Fretty McWorry about money, but this is not a new hobby. Being unemployed has only exacerbated the situation.

I keep reminding myself that it is all in how you look at things, right? So I lost my job. Now I have time to write. And housework is less of a hassle when I'm not cramming it into the weekends and evenings. I realized sometime during week 2 of unemployment that I don't mind doing housework as long as I don't have an audience. It's when other people are sitting around on their firm teen asses while I work that I get petulant. As it should be. But leave me alone and I'm knocking Mr. Clean and the Tidy Bowl Man out of my way as I buzz around getting things done.

And the cats don't mind my rhetorical snark such as "Who left this half a brownie on the mantel?" or "Why is there a sock on the ceiling fan?" They simply yawn, stretch and find another patch of sunlight in which to sit and observe the woman who insists on talking to them in that high voice.

And don't let this get around because I have a reputation to maintain, but I dig that I'm here for the kids more than I could be before. And I like them. Mostly. See? It's not all bad.

Have I mentioned our carbon footprint? It's shrinking! We save gas on that long commute. So the dryer broke? Pain in the ass, right? Well, sure, but now we're saving money and using less energy by not running a dryer. I do the laundry, I hang it to dry in the basement, and then iron it to soften it up. Even the socks. Trust me, it works and it's incredibly meditative, this ironing thing. I mostly do it while watching old movies, so what's not to love? Chloe did wonder aloud at the need for ironing boxers and panties until I made her do the feel test. That shut her up pretty quickly. Or she was simply indulging me so that I wouldn't force her to touch Nate's boxers. Either way, she concurred.

While I'm ironing (no apron required), my favorite old movies to watch are from the 1930s. I see the portrayals of the Great Depression and think "we don't have it that bad" and I'm fine. We're fine. We still have a roof over our heads and meals on the table. Real meals for a change. We eat at home almost exclusively now. Turns out, I'm a pretty good cook. It's much easier to make a meal when you're not tired from being at the office all day and then driving for freaking ever to get home. You should see what I can do with some ground roadkill and bread crumbs.

We're economizing any way we can. We already gave up a car. We're thinking about getting rid of the satellite t.v., but I'm dragging my feet. I must confirm that we can get Turner Classic Movies on the basic package. Everyone is brownbagging it these days. We go to the library for our books, DVDS and CDs.

Meanwhile, I make other efforts, too. I'm fattening up the little finches at the feeder in case we run out of cat food. I go around the house and unplug unused electronics and switch off lights, sometimes even when someone is in the room. "Come on, you can pee in the dark. It's not like you're reading..." has become one of my oft-repeated phrases along with "Turn off that light when you leave the room" and "Nope, sorry, no money for that."

Even the little life hiccups aren't bad. Today, Nate had a fever and needed to come home from school. I walked over to get him and we walked back home together, chatting all the way. Now had the weather been like it was yesterday, all rainy and gray, this would be an entirely different blog post, but the skies are blue and the sun is bright and even the strong winds weren't enough to make me whine about the walk through the subdivision, across the covered bridge and through the park to reach the school. It was quite nice and I can count it as additional exercise. Bonus!

My unemployment insurance should kick in shortly and that will be most welcome. It will pay for gas, groceries and rent. Those money-grubbing credit cards that get their payments each month via the Chapter 13 bankruptcy might have to work with us on reducing our burden. I'm not holding my breath. I'm learning to cross bridges when I come to them, you know?

For now, I'm looking for a job, but for each resume I send out, I'm torn between knowing I need the job and not being too thrilled about going back to the grind.

It's been nice, this idea that I can keep the house and be a mother and write and that's enough. Of course, that it's not. But still. I do not now nor have I ever needed a job outside the home to feel fulfilled or to keep boredom at bay. I can't even imagine being bored anymore. I still don't have enough hours in the the day to do everything I want to do.

I'm reminded of my friend Bonnie Flowers once again. We were sitting at our desks in the bullpen we occupied at the AARP office in Chicago and the subject of the two income trap came up. We were a split group of two wage earner homes and single parent homes. None of us hated the idea of being able to work, but there was plenty of grousing about the need for all of us to be working.

"I wish I had a time machine," Bonnie said. "I'd go find that first woman who thought her husband was going to the office every day to have a party and decided that she wanted to work, too, and I'd smack her. Hard."

A bit hyperbolic, to be sure, but she definitely had a point.....I don't want to take away anyone's right or desire to work outside the home, but it would be nice to not feel like we're going to drown if I don't find full time work. Perhaps it's time for the pendulum to swing back a bit. Or more accurately, maybe it already has.


  1. I hope you can just get a part time job. Or better yet, get a publisher. Most of all, find work that defines you better. You can do it!

    Every time I start to think "I should really get a job" one of the kids really needs me - they get sick at school or have a big project. I really like having the flexibility to be there for them. In a few years, they won't be around here anymore.

  2. Domestic goddesshood. It's not a bad gig if you can get it. And afford it. And can beat the rap when the kids catch you dusting the goldfish and ironing their..... oh yeah. Too late.

  3. Enjoy your time on Unemployment!

    So far, I've spent about 5 of my 50years working full time, and it totally sucked.

    Part-time work has always been the way to go for me. I love my work as a preschool teacher which, sadly, pays for shit especially since I work part-time. I'm proud to be defined by my job, though, and the best part is that the non-profit where I work gives full benefits to anyone working 25 hours/week which is about all I ever like to work anyway.

    I'm terminally broke, but Life Is Better when you have time for your family, your personal projects and a nap.

  4. Stole my thunder, ya did....
    WHen you figure out how much you're saving by not commuting and cooking real dinner with real food, you're really not that far behind, are ya??!! I must admit, though, I get mighty angry everytime I have to say "Who left that there?" or "Turn out the light...." But I'm not going back to work until the house decides to pick itself up and keep itself clean... without me having to say a word....

    Enjoy! Life is way too short!

  5. My biggest worry is that my job will ask me to go from part-time to full-time. Part-time is awesome.

  6. Having a job is highly overrated. I wish we lived closer to one another so we could hang out during the day. Oh well, maybe someday. ;o)

  7. I hope things move in a good direction - and that you can keep the best of both worlds. Now I'm "pushing 60" - regrets for not having managed a better life balance. And for sure you won't be able to seriously break into writing as a gig without the gift of time.

  8. I never thought this domestic gig would be for me, but 9 years later, I really do like it. I think I'm sort of lazy, but mostly I find there is plenty to do,and the kids enjoy me more(I think).
    As college x2 is looming, work is looking like a real need......ugh!!

  9. I am so glad you're finding your groove in this! Rock on, sister.

    (wow, that sort of sounded like Rich, didn't it?)

  10. Thanks for this. Since I'm one of those over educated women whose wages would scarcely cover childcare, working outside the home is not practical for me. I am really grateful that my husband's profession pays well so that I am able to keep our home going. But it's such a touchy subject, with many people ready to judge and take personal, that I rarely talk about this part of my life. You have done an amazing job here keeping it real and also addressing a big issue for moms. Thx!

  11. I am so glad you are enjoying your break from the two income grind. It's a shame it also comes with a break from the two incomes. But unemployment coverage is lasting longer than ever these days...

  12. And hopefully before you find a job, your book will find it's way to a publisher who wants to print it.

  13. Since I work in the construction industry, we are facing a similar possibility. My husband noted that, should we pay off x and y bills, we would be fine on one salary.

    I'm glad that you're hitting your groove/balance. If you'd like 'non library' books to read, let me know. I have a very soft spot for remainders.

    Also - Do you have an Aldi near you? I'm betting you'd love it.

  14. Iwanski and I can sooo relate to your situation--we are in the same boat. Even though sometimes we are Fretty McWorriers, there have also been so many countless blessings about Iwanski being out of work. I personally like being the one to go to a job outside the home, while Iwanski writes and does pretty much all the housework. (Love that! *grin*)

    Luckily, too, I like my job. :)

    But isn't it just amazing how much less money you can live with, once you start to get rid of unnecessary expenses (like an extra car)?

  15. Back in the 50's, my grandpa told my dad he was afraid if both spouses started working to try to get ahead, all that would happen would be prices rising to adjust and then two people would HAVE to work, and working-class people STILL wouldn't get ahead.


  16. I'm thinking that once the book comes out, you'll be on your way.

    Just be ready! ;)

  17. It's very nice to be at home. Hubby and I work from home, OK he has his own business that I add my 2 cents to as needed. Is there something you could do from home? You speak French, right? How about tutoring? Then you could blend bringing in an income with being at home. Maybe you can come up with other ideas that may pay even better. Anyway, if you can do it, it's a great life.

    I found that the best way to cut out spending was to stop buying the newspaper. Those sale ads are just full of shiny, pretty things that I didn't need, but I couldn't resist just going to the store to check them, just in case I needed them. Now that I don't have the ads tempting me, I don't need to shop nearly as much. And the savings from everything I don't buy(including the newspaper) easily makes up for maybe not hitting every last sale on what I do buy.

  18. It's nice that unemployment and cobra coverages have been extended. I think I would miss working. I am not a domestic goddess, but, I would love having time to dabble more in my hobbies. I have my annual review today, so, hopefully I still have a job.

    Answer to your comment: I get by day by day. I wish they could put all those pills in a candy bar.

  19. Unemployment was what I did best, the only problem was the retirement plan sucked!!

    As someone who has been there many times, if you get a sinking feeling in your gut when offered a job, RUN!!!!!

  20. Silver linings are good.

    Did you grown up lower middle class? I did - actually, more like "broke ass and wearing 100% hand-me-downs watching a black & white TV in 1986" - and it's amazing to me how much I learned from my parents on how to get by. God bless the library, is all I'm saying.

    I've been unemployed for a year and a half now (granted, it was voluntary, but my position was en route to elimination) and I've had mixed feelings about the domestic life. On one hand, I get enough mental stimulation via my classes and the NYT website. School does keep me busy. On the other hand, I sometimes feel like a servant - esp. when Dave does stupid things like referring to what I do at home as "nothing" while he's playing WoW or watching "Ax Men". Or calling me a hermit and I'm all "dooood. Staying home every day during winter break kept me away from Target/Lowe's/Home Goods so maybe pick your battles". I genuinely like "keeping house" but I'm afraid of NOT having a career and becoming a stay-at-home-mom who loses her identity and becomes a vapid Stepford clone. In October I swore I'd never want to be at home and I'd hire a cleaning service and be successful blah blah blah. Now my personal pendulum has swung back and I realize that since one of us is already married to a job, maybe I should be okay with not having to be Career Queen.

    Sorry for the long comment!

  21. I too would rather be home full time. I like keeping things clean, washing the clothes, and putting something homemade on the table every night. But sadly we need my income, or rather the benefits my income covers, right now. Last night I was up until 11 getting a crock pot dinner ready and I thought "this is ridiculous".

  22. Wait, are you saying working for a living sucks?

  23. Gotta remember one of the reasons the single-paycheck household began vanishing was because hourly wages adjusted for inflation have been basically stagnant since the Nixon era. Prices, however, have not stayed flat. End result: for msot households in the US it takes two wage earners to provide what one used to.

  24. I think it's about time I stayed home for my kid too. They're just so darn cute when they're pushing 40.

    One thing I should tell you about UIC is to remember they'll tax you on the income so it's not a bad idea to put some money aside and be prepared.

  25. I loved not working. I was able to go to the park pool (indoor) & work out most days of the week. I felt relaxed. My time was mine. great to set your own schedule.

    The workplace is a dirge.
    All their petty points system, and the large corporation I work for loves slogans, but not what they mean.
    Own the problem
    Deliver the Wow (I'm serious!)

    But in the end all that stuff is just bullshit.
    They want you to go as fast as you can & do volume work.

    I tested my theory... when I passed off the problem to another department, and delivered the minimum I got praise.

    So savor this time m'dear.... it is a sweet life.

  26. I am only working two hours a day atm but on 3 of thoses days have to factor in bus travel. The other 3 a 10 min walk. Its nice to have some time at home. But I would love it even more if I had one more whole day.
    And of course There are the other i spend on prep for the tutoring unpaid. As l ong as I earn eanough to pay my share with a bit left for the odd treat I am happy

    I don't mine ironing and usually find something exciting to watch while i do it.

    Hope you manage to find a good work/home balance.

  27. Great post - I know how you feel and on one hand I want to get some kind of job when I leave work but on the other, I don't. More and more I don't. I hope whatever you find makes you happy.


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